We’re barely past the first quarter of the Major League Baseball season, and it feels the Seattle Mariners’ 2017 may be a lost season. When Chris Heston started Sunday’s game vs. the Chicago White Sox, it was the Mariners’ 11th starting pitcher of the season, highest in the majors. We’re only at Game 45. Seattle clawed to 17-17 after sweeping Philadelphia, but they have gone 3-8 since putting them at 20-25 and currently last in the A.L. West. The season is young, and there is still time, but the Houston Astros are running away and hiding with the A.L. West, currently 9.5 games ahead of the Mariners.
The Rotation, Such As It Is. The pitchers the Mariners slotted at No. 1 through No. 4 in Spring Training (Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, and Drew Smyly) are all currently on the D.L. Paxton is the only starter close to returning, and he won’t be available for the team’s brutal eight game upcoming road swing through Washington, Boston, and Colorado. Yovani Gallardo, who the Mariners obtained in an offseason trade with Baltimore, hasn’t rebounded from a poor 2016 as much as Mariner fans had hoped. The only veteran not on the D.L., Gallardo has only beaten one opponent this season, the A’s twice. He’s 2-4 with a 5.84 ERA after being on the short end of a 16-1 loss to the White Sox on Saturday. Ariel Miranda, who was scheduled to start the season in Tacoma but made the rotation due to the Smyly injury, has pitched well going 3-2 with a 4.28 ERA. After Chris Heston and Chase De Jong struggled at the big level in their starts, the Mariners have turned to Christian Bergman and Sam Gaviglio to fill out the rotation.
The Offense Can Save the Day? It did look like the offense would carry the Mariners and give their battered staff a cushion. When they swept Philadelphia to go to 17-17, they averaged 10.5 runs a game. Whether it was losing Robinson Cano or the numbers catching up to them, the offense dried up. In a four game sweep in Toronto, the Mariners scored six runs over the set and were shut out once. In the three most recent losses to the White Sox, the Mariners scored only three runs total in three games. Nelson Cruz has been on fire (.301, 11 HR, 37 RBI), but the offense is hoping the return of Robinson Cano from a short D.L. stint will be a shot in the arm.
Is 2017 lost? It’s obviously too early to waive a white flag. And, credit the Mariners for competing as their entire pitching staff crumbles around them. Seattle has used 26 pitchers so far this season, again an insane number to be at when you’re at game 45 for the season. Now, you have an eight-game road trip against two division leaders, Washington and Colorado, and a very good Boston team. The offense has to pick it up and allow some margin of error for the pitching staff. If the Mariners can tread water and get their starting pitchers back healthy, this can still be the dangerous team they had coming out of Spring Training that pundits thought would be competing for a playoff spot.